The tipping point may have been the sixth goal. Or the seventh. Or the 13th, which turned out to be the last goal scored in the U.S. women’s national team’s handy defeat of Thailand in their first World Cup game.
Whichever goal it was that fans thought should have been the last for ecstatic celebration by the likes of Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan on Tuesday, the debate over the players’ sliding, kicking and group hugging drew attention to another issue: the 38 cents on the dollar that the women are paid compared to the men’s team.
On International Women’s Day in March, all 28 members of the women’s team filed a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, alleging they do the same job as the men’s team in exchange for lower wages and inferior working conditions. The men’s national team has never won a world title and did not qualify for last year’s World Cup.
The women have been fighting for fair pay for years. Five of them filed a wage-discrimination complaint in 2016 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces civil-rights laws in the workplace. Some of them then made the rounds on major television networks to plead their case.
As Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins wrote, the women’s performance on Tuesday is likely only to make it harder for U.S. Soccer to keep defending its current pay structure:
Just imagine how that record-setting 13-0 victory over Thailand will play at a jury trial. It’s going to be a lot of fun watching lawyers for the soccer federation try to justify why the U.S. Women’s National Team, with their air rifles for legs, are paid 38 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts and had to sue for fair wages. It’s going to be pure entertainment listening to federation president Carlos Cordeiro stammer out an explanation on the witness stand of why this team, which is nothing short of an American damn treasure, isn’t worth equal coin to a men’s squad that can’t beat Jamaica.
With attention turned to the women’s achievements, politicians, athletes, writers and others weighed in on Wednesday about the pay gap. President Trump’s position, however, was unclear. When NBC correspondent Peter Alexander asked him whether the women’s players should be paid as much as the men’s players, Trump responded, “We’ll talk about that later.”
Defenders of the pay gap pointed to the significantly higher revenue generated by the men’s World Cup, compared with the women’s event. The 2010 men’s World Cup brought in about $4 billion, CBS reported, while the women’s World Cup in 2011 earned about $73 million. The men’s players got 9 percent of their event’s total revenue, while the women’s team got 13 percent of theirs, according to CBS.
Other celebrities and public figures — including White House counselor Kellyanne Conway — expressed frustration with the gender pay gap, arguing that the women’s performance makes them worthy of at least as much money as the men: